A Second Try!

The archive trip on October 18th was by far more productive and valuable than the last visit. Now as registered researchers we were able to pull more files and have more time in the reading room to look over them. I had mostly administrative files this time and spent about an hour reading through a file full of legal codes and pamphlets detailing new regulations. There was an entire page and a half about medical examinations within one of these pamphlets, detailing appropriate conduct with immigrants being examined and methods of diagnosis. Which is a topic that was also dealt with in another file. I managed to dig up some internal problems with the medical examiner at Eagle Pass in 1911, Dr. Hume. Apparently other medical examiners were finding patients Dr. Hume had diagnosed with trachoma as being in perfect health, meaning that there was no reason to deny them entry to the United States. It is unclear whether this false diagnosis was deliberate on Dr. Hume’s part as an excuse to deny entry, but this conflict went all the way to the supervising inspector at El Paso, who appeared to have been in charge of most of the Mexican border. This supervising inspector wrote to the Commissioner General of Immigration and the Surgeon-General in Washington DC asking for a more definitive method of diagnosis that could not be incorrectly interpreted. Ultimately Dr. Hume faced little repercussion, just a strong admonishment which is perfect for our project as not only does it discuss a prominent medical practitioner; the file also addresses difficulties inspectors faced in arriving at diagnosis and also the struggle of the immigrant, dealing with conflicting doctor’s opinions.

Commissioner General of Immigration, Labor Department, Washington D.C. Sept. 1912, File 53511-003, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, RG 85 (National Archives, Washington, DC )

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